LONDON MILL, Ill. — The planters were parked when rain recently swept through large portions of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, slowing planting progress that had surpassed the five-year averages for corn and soybeans.

Less than one-third of the soybeans were planted leading into the delay, but there’s still time in the optimum planting window.

“It’s really not late at all as far as soybean planting is concerned,” said Lance Tarochione, DeKalb and Asgrow territory agronomist.

“We have talked a lot in recent years about some of the research that shows that early planting of soybeans does tend to increase your yield potential. I’m a believer in that, but for many, many years, the target planting window for soybeans was basically the month of May and we really didn’t think we started losing yield potential until June 10.”

He added more recent research indicates the soybeans’ yield potential is reduced more rapidly when planted later, “but you can still raise very, very good beans in Illinois planted in May.”

“I’m not terribly concerned about the fact that there are a lot of soybeans to be planted,” Tarochione said.

It’s also much too early to consider increasing planting population as the calendar gets nearer to double-crop timing.

“I don’t really worry about that until I get into the second half of June. I’m still recommending standard seeding rate,” Tarochione said.

Seed Treatments

He recommends seed treatment since soils still are a little cool in the middle of May, especially in no-till fields.

The agronomist also noted some early season challenges and recommendations for soybeans.

“As far as soybean diseases go, a lot of our seed is genetically resistant to a lot of different races of phytophthora, but there are still races out there that can overcome genetic resistance, and then you’ve got field tolerance and seed treatment to back you up,” he said.

It may seem a bit too early for insects, but there now are some roaming the fields that consider first-emerged soybeans a delicacy.

Tarochione has a couple of fields in his territory that runs from the Mississippi River in Hancock County to McLean County, where producers believe in early-planted soybeans and begin planting those the same time as corn.

“Bean leaf beetles love those early first-emerged bean fields. Whatever bean leaf beetles that are out there, they are going to find those first fields that come up, and your insecticide seed treatment can be very beneficial in limiting that damage,” he said.

Soybean growers should be diligent in scouting their fields for insects and diseases and also monitor emergence issues such as crusting, seed depth placement and adequate seed-to-soil content.

The weather may not have been cooperative this spring for timely planting, but most fields were relatively weed-free as the planters began to roll.

A combination of the late harvest, a cold winter and spring, early dryness and suitable conditions for spring tillage or burndown kept weeds in check.

“Usually, when things get really green is when we had a warm wet spring and you can’t get in and do stuff when you’d like to,” Tarochione said.

“This year, we had a cold dry spring, so not only did that slow down the growth of the weed, but it also gave us plenty of opportunities to control them, so we don’t see fields that look like pastures like we sometimes do.”

Burn, Weed, Burn

There also is an increase in managing weeds with a fall burndown, a practice that is recommended by Tarochione.

“I do that on my farm at home, and it’s just a great way to control some hard-to-control species, even if you’re battling weed resistance,” he said.

“Weeds are so much easier to kill in the fall than they are in the spring. If you take those winter annuals out in the fall, it’s amazing how clean your field will be in the spring.”

Based on farmer surveys, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a record high 81.5 million soybean acres this year, up 6 percent from last year, and 91.7 million corn acres, a 4 percent reduction from 2013.

Tarochione doesn’t see any major acreage shift in his territory this year.

“We don’t have the corn-on-corn that we had three or four years ago. The people that always go corn-on-corn still are, but the people that jumped on the bandwagon four or five years ago have gone back to more of a rotation,” he said.

Weather conditions allowed farmers to able to catch up with their tillage this spring that they were unable to complete in the fall and apply fertilizer.

“If we would have had a wet spring and guys couldn’t get nitrogen on timely and under good conditions, I think we could have seen a little more of a shift to soybeans,” Tarochione said.

“And the corn price kind of rallied going into planting, as well. I can’t say that I’ve seen much of a shift. We’ve gone back more closely to a 50-50 corn-soybean rotation, but we still have more corn acres than we do soybean acres in my part of the world.”